Established in 2005 and based in Tel Aviv, Gisha: Center for the Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement describes itself as “an Israeli not-for-profit organization that seeks to protect the fundamental rights of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories by imposing human rights law as a limitation on the behavior of Israel’s military.” According to Gisha (whose name means both “access” and “approach”): “Since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, its military has developed an elaborate system of rules and sanctions to control the movement of the 3.4 million Palestinians who live there. Every day, infringements on the right to mobility compromise the ability of thousands of Palestinian residents to carry out the ordinary tasks crucial to a person’s physical health, economic sustenance, developmental needs, and human dignity.” Portraying Israel as an oppressor nation, Gisha engages “in litigation and advocacy that aim to help individuals exercise their right to freedom of movement while working for systemic change in military practices and abuses at Israeli border-crossings and checkpoints.”
On numerous occasions Gisha has petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to allow particular Palestinian students to study at Israeli or West Bank universities, and campaigned “for removal or reduction in restrictions on movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza.” In these campaigns, Gisha fails to mention the context of Palestinian terrorism and the logic of Israeli border-crossings and checkpoints.
In one instance, Gisha petitioned the Court to repeal a November 19, 2006 directive — which Gisha characterized as an “apartheid order” — prohibiting Israelis without a special permit from transporting by car any Palestinian residents of the West Bank. In a another petition to the Supreme Court, Gisha accused Israel of implementing the “ideology of segregation”: “We cannot claim a patent on the establishment of a legal system of segregation, since human history is familiar with methods of racial or other ‘segregation’ as was the case in South Africa during the apartheid and in the Southern US States until the 1960s.”
In 2005 and 2006, Gisha — in conjunction with such organizations as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Betselem, the Committee against Torture in Israel, HaMoked, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and Yesh Din — took part in a number of public expressions of condemnation against Israel. In 2005, for instance, Gisha and some of the aforementioned groups jointly placed an advertisement in the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz referring to Israel as an “apartheid” regime. On July 11, 2006, Gisha and five other political NGOs called on the Israeli government to keep open the crossings into Gaza for essential supplies, characterizing Israel’s current restrictive policies as “collective punishment” while ignoring the security threat at the Gaza crossings. And on November 9, 2006, Gisha and several other groups placed another ad in Haaretz, this time charging that Israeli authorities had routinely and indiscriminately fired their guns into crowded Palestinian civilian areas.
In January 2007, Gisha produced a much-publicized report titled “Disengaged Occupiers: The Legal Status of Gaza,” which claimed that “Israel continues to control Gaza through an ‘invisible hand’: control over borders, airspace, territorial waters, population registry, the tax system, supply of goods and others.” Gisha’s report accused Israel of regulating “movement within the Gaza Strip through sporadic troop presence and artillery fire from positions along its border with Gaza,” and called on the Jewish state to “fulfil its obligations toward the people of Gaza … namely: to open Gaza’s borders to the free passage of people and goods, [and] to refrain from inflicting damage on Gaza’s infrastructure …” The authors of this report made no mention of the 2,127 Palestinian rocket attacks launched from Gaza during 2005 and 2006.
Gisha’s Director is Sari Bashi, an attorney educated at Yale Law School and a former Israeli Supreme Court clerk. Prior to founding Gisha, Bashi worked at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Professor Kenneth Mann, a law professor at Tel Aviv University and a former Chief Public Defender, serves as Gisha’s Legal Adviser and Chairman of its Advisory Committee.
Gisha receives funding from the Dutch and Norwegian Foreign Ministries, the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the New Israel Fund, and George Soros’s Open Society Institute. Gisha also receives support from Echoing Green, a “social change” organization that has granted fellowships to such individuals as Gisha Director Sari Bashi, International Solidarity Movement co-founder Huwaida Arraf, and the former Operations Manager of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Fred Schlomka.
This profile is adapted, with permission, from NGO Monitor.